6 Reasons to Get “Off the Beaten Path” and Out of the Big City on Your Next Trip!

Eiffel Tower Paris France

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I love Paris almost like a member of my family, salivate over the thought of fish and chips at the pub in London and think that the chaos and history of Rome are an experience that every traveler should have.

Despite my fondness for the world’s biggest cities and tourist hot spots, my most memorable travel moments most often happen outside of the big cities, in smaller towns and villages.

Even if we are visiting a large city like Paris or London, we always try to make time for at least a day trip to a smaller town to see something of the country side.  We feel strongly that it gives us a different perspective on the culture and history of that place than we would get than if we just stayed in the big city.

There is something about seeing the countryside and its quaint, small villages that feeds my soul moreso than seeing the big attractions in busy cities.  Maybe it is the slower pace of life which gives me a more relaxed vacation, the fact that the locals have more time to interact with you, the freedom to stop at the market and spend time sampling cheese, or to spend the time searching out that great, out of the way restaurant.

So often, when visiting touristy places, I feel like I am in such a hurry to see all of the sights that I miss getting a taste of what life and culture is really like in that place (something that is really important to me when I travel.)

Whatever it is, being outside of the city allows me to truly relax and feel like I have succeeded in getting away.

Here are some great reasons to head out of the city on your next vacation:

1) Slower pace: Cities are frankly exhausting for me.  The noise, the crowds, the lack of fresh air all take their toll on my endurance.  Being in a big city feels like a marathon to me; I feel pressured to see everything in the limited amount of time that we have.

When you get outside of the big city, life really does move at a slower pace.  Locals have more time to stop and chat with you.  Many times, there are less “must see” sights in smaller towns, taking away the pressure to see everything (instead of big sights, you soak up the ambiance of the town as you leisurely walk around, finding your own hidden gems).

When you stop rushing about, you have more time to stop in that cute little cheese shop and sample cheese with the shopkeeper as you try to find a common ground of language.  Out of the city, you have time to take that interesting looking detour without feeling like you will be missing something big on your itinerary.

A Cheese shop in the market in Nice France

A Cheese shop in the market in Nice France

2) More time to interact with locals: One of the wondrous things for me about travel is feeling like I have made a real connection with the people and culture in a new place.  Seeing the big sights is great, but if I never expand my understanding of a new destination’s culture and people, I feel like I have missed a big piece of the puzzle.

Outside of the big city, making deeper connections with locals is easier.  People in general are friendlier and less rushed.  When you have that moment where you are in a market with a friendly local who is helping you with your language skills while you buy handmade, artisan soaps, I think that you will remember that moment at least as much as you remember the big sights that you saw.

3) More authentic food: I have a bad track record for finding good, authentic cuisine in large cities.  In places with a lot of tourists, you will generally find a much higher percentage of bland, safe looking restaurants with expensive, generic cuisine.  Whether by necessity of hunger or lack of other options, we get drawn into these unfortunate culinary experiences like a bug to a bug zapper.

Shanna about to enjoy her Thai lunch.

In a smaller town, it is easier to get away from these “easy” options to find restaurants serving cuisine that locals would actually eat (in a very small town, you might not have any “easy, safe” options, and you will have to expand your horizons to accommodate a more authentic food experience.)

4) Less ‘Americanized':  For me, part of the thrill of travel is the change in perspective that comes from getting outside of my own little box.

As wonderful and beautiful as big cities like Amsterdam and London are, for the most part, they have become so connected to the rest of the world that they are easy to navigate and somewhat generic in many ways.

When you get away from the city, authentic cultural experiences can be easier to find, and you might be challenged to step outside of your comfort zone.

No, not everyone will speak English.  Restaurant menus might only be available in the local language, necessitating that you to interact with your waiter to figure out what to order.  The signs might only be in the local language, forcing you to think, get out your translating book and learn something.

It might not be as easy, but for me, the challenge of having to adapt to an environment that is not just like home is rewarded with a deeper and more meaningful travel experience where I feel like I really got away, not just like a continuation of my life at home.

5) The opportunity to get “off the beaten path” and see things that are not a typical part of the tourist itinerary:  I know that the term “off the beaten path” is super overused, but the concept behind it is what really drives my passion for travel.

Ireland Castle

Being the only foreigner in a local pub, or finding an ancient castle on an unnamed road in the middle of nowhere that I don’t need to share with anybody is the mark of a successful adventure for me.  It frankly just gives me a thrill.  These are the stories that you will tell to your friends and family back home when you reminisce about your trip, not necessarily all of the little details about the “touristy” stuff that everyone knew that you were going to see anyways (“yup, saw the Eiffel Tower and it was tall…”)

6) Price:  Getting out of the big city is almost always cheaper!  That meal that you might spend 35 euros for in a cafe in Paris might be only 25 euros in cafe in a small village.  Accommodations will be cheaper, too.

The tradeoff?  The variety and selection might not be as wide as you would have in a big city, but I would generally stay in a small, family run hotel in a small town that will cost me less money than staying in a chain hotel in a big city, anyways.

If budget is an issue for you when you travel, planning to spend part of you trip exploring outside of the city will help to stretch it so that you can afford to spend a couple of days splurging seeing the must see sights within the city, and it will give you a more well rounded travel experience, too!


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About Shanna

Shanna is a travel professional in the airline and hotel industries. She lives in Lonsdale, MN and there enjoys cooking and gardening. Her favorite places to travel are Scotland and France. Shanna writes about travel in the Midwestern part of the United States at her blog A Midwest Travel Companion More About Shanna Google

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16 Responses to 6 Reasons to Get “Off the Beaten Path” and Out of the Big City on Your Next Trip!

  1. Derek Freal July 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    While I agree with all of your reasons, #2 and #3 are definitely the reasons I’m never sad to leave the big cities behind :)
    Derek Freal recently posted..Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo: The Most Depressing Zoo Ever?My Profile

  2. Jennifer July 7, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    I definitely agree! Our favorite places are almost always the smaller villages and towns. They feel more special because not everyone has been there and seen that.
    Jennifer recently posted..Folegandros: The Authentic IslandMy Profile

  3. Andrea July 8, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    I find cities these days to be all pretty much the same with only architectural and local cultural differences so I definitely agree with you here!
    Andrea recently posted..Miami Is For Lovers: Part TwoMy Profile

    • Shanna July 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

      Yeah, I know it sounds like a snotty traveler thing to say, but it is kind of true. For me, it is the people and the culture that make the difference between one place and another…the buildings and things to see are just a small part of that.

  4. Danni July 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    You pretty much just read my mind. I like seeing the big tourist sites as much as the next person, but there is something so special about the side trips where we just get to enjoy the real like of a small town. You can’t see everything in the world, you just can’t, so I want to really enjoy the things I do get to see…

    • Shanna July 10, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      The fact that I can’t see EVERYTHING in the world is something my brain is still trying to struggle with, but I have gotten a lot better at narrowing down my itineraries to just the things that I know that I will really enjoy and skipping the rest…

  5. Dale July 12, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    I don’t think we could travel any other way now after the past year of travelling. It feels far more adventurous even if sometimes you end up in the middle of nowhere with nothing much to look at.
    Dale recently posted..How We Went Meat Eaters To Veggie On Our TravelsMy Profile

    • Shanna July 12, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

      Yup, that happens to us sometimes, too (ending up in the middle of nowhere with nothing to see) but that is the gamble that you take (you might also find something incredible that no one else knows about!)

  6. Sherry July 17, 2013 at 12:25 am #

    I think it really depends what city or what countryside. It depends more on experience. I had a horrible time in the country while in Ireland. And then, I had a horrible time in the city in the Philippines. Meanwhile I had a great time in the country in Spain. And, I had unforgettable time in the city in Scotland. I don’t prefer one or the other. Rather, everything about what I experience.

    • Shanna July 19, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

      Great observations…I love your travel philosophy…live in the moment and be open to whatever comes your way, wherever you may be!

  7. Dana July 23, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    I totally agree! I love the big city because there is so much to see, but I’m just as happy, if not more happy, outside of the tourist traps too. I love just driving around the countryside looking at the scenery, seeing the real shops, and being a part of normal life.

    • Shanna July 24, 2013 at 2:38 am #

      The “being a part of normal life” part is the part that I really love. I just wish we had more vacation than we do (we have the average American standard of a couple weeks a year, which doesn’t leave much time for settling for long in one place). I would love to be able to someday rent an apartment and stay somewhere for a week or two to really get a feeling for local life!

  8. flipnomad August 15, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    And less chaotic too ;-)

    I spend most of my travels in small towns but sometimes crave for the chaos and convenience of traveling in cities. :-)

    Safe travels Shanna
    flipnomad recently posted..How to Stay Aware of Email Frauds while TravelingMy Profile

  9. Mary @ Green Global Travel August 7, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    Excellent tips! They’re all very true, and they make a trip so much more meaningful and personal! Thanks for sharing!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..Blogging, the Green Travel Industry & The Future of GGTMy Profile

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